Remaking The Chinese City: Artistic Expression

In Hong Kong on April 13, 2011, Rocco Yim discusses the lack of awareness about sound in Chinese architecture. (2 min., 12 sec.)

HONG KONG, April 13, 2011 — If given carte blanche, how would you re-imagine or re-make some of China's largest cities? This was the question posed by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to its panel of experts as part of the Remaking the Chinese City series.

Renowned architect Rocco Yim emphasized that culture was an integral part of a city, and that a city's success did not simply depend on its infrastructure and superstructures, but in ways that people could interact and relate to the buildings around them.

Successful cities were those "spaces that are meant for people, for activities, rather than the buildings serving as nothing but individual monuments." He likened Guangzhou's new cultural hub as an example of a complex that failed to foster interaction between people and buildings.

Wenyuan Wu, an expert in landscape and architectural design, proposed the idea of evolution versus revolution. She noted that China's pursuit of modernity hadneglected its past, destroying much of its history and heritage. "To build anew world, the old one must be smashed," she described of the current building situation in China. "This has led to massive destruction that has changed the landscape of China." Wu is an advocate of heritage preservation and making use of one's surroundings to develop successful cities.

Sound versus noise was the topic that artist, Dajuin Yao, tackled. Sound, according to him, was often neglected by architects in their designs. He argued that there was a lack of awareness of "what sounds to project and to minimize" in designing communities. Sound, unlike noise, piqued the interest of people living in communities and stimulated them. China, he observed, was barraged by noise pollution, unlike Europe where there was no such threat.

Moderating the session, curator and guest professor, Johnson Chang added dimension to the evening by talking about urban slums and the countryside and how these are neglected in pursuit of designing modern cities.

In closing, panelists agreed that successful cities were those that inspired artists and stimulated creativity. "Spaces should not bevested in one function only. They should be served up in multiple ways,"concluded Yim.

Reported by Blue Carreon, Asia Society Hong Kong Center